South Egremont — Hinda Bodinger is getting really good at thinking outside of the box. As founder of Berkshire Baby Box, Bodinger has overseen the dissemination of 1,500 “baby boxes” to new and expectant families throughout Berkshire County. In a scant two years, her tiny seed of an idea has blossomed into a thriving nonprofit, one quite literally rooted in a box but figuratively aimed at connecting families to resources throughout Berkshire County. This weekend, Bodinger is using food and the camaraderie that comes from cooking for our loved ones as another way to connect families. On Saturday, May 12, Berkshire Baby Box will celebrate Mother’s Day by hosting a “Sweet Berkshire” dessert auction to benefit the nonprofit. The event, which will take place at the Country Club of Pittsfield, will also feature the release of “Sweet Berkshire: A Family Keepsake Dessert Cookbook.”
“It’s not simply about the box…it’s about the connection,” said Bodinger, whose stance has remained firm in her first two years at the helm of BBB. It comes as no surprise that the organization’s first formal fundraiser seeks to connect mothers through stories and recipes. “Traditions, diversity and shared history are what bind us and connect us,” said Bodinger. “Sweet Berkshire” is an eclectic compilation of more than 60 recipes from over 50 contributors featuring personal anecdotes about all the special mothers in our lives—including Bodinger’s, Edith Kleinfield Pollock, who died when Bodinger was just 5 years old. Her grandmother’s recipe for date and nut bread, baked and shipped in a empty coffee can, recounts the kind of connection that ultimately creates the ties that bind us to one another.
“New parenting is hard for everyone,” said Bodinger, who was inspired by the successful program in Finland that began 80 years ago—she founded Berkshire Baby Box in 2016. Since its inception, Bodinger and a small team of volunteers have worked to spread the word: Every family in the county who is expecting a newborn is eligible. Each box, with its firm mattress and fitted sheet, is filled with essentials for newborns and moms and provides the baby with a safe sleeping space. But it doesn’t end there. The primary mission of Berkshire Baby Box is to celebrate new families in the Berkshires; the boxes are given out at workshops where parents receive education, support and vital connections to one another and to area resources as they transition into parenthood.
“All families are entitled to, deserve and need community support,” said Bodinger, who has worked tirelessly to make “baby boxes” available to all. BBB became an all-county initiative due to the generosity of the Baby Box Company; the makers of the actual boxes donated the first 1,500—as well as the mattresses, fitted sheets and several promotional items—but Bodinger estimates that her operating costs last year alone were close to $30,000. Her choice to hold the fundraiser in Pittsfield was done in an effort to be inclusive of all; furthermore, the event’s design stems from Bodinger’s appreciation for the wealth of community support she has received.
“This is a multi-generational event, open to all,” Bodinger stressed. And there will be something for everyone: In addition to enjoying light brunch fare, individuals will have the opportunity to bid on outstanding desserts by professional Berkshire bakers from local establishments (from Blantyre to Barrington Brewery, SoCo Creamery to Seasons on Main, just to name a few). There will be fun entertainment by Roger the Jester, Balloon Ben, a wonderful face painter and close-up magician Mark Cook. There will also be music by harpist Elizabeth Morse from 11 a.m. to noon, and Release the Penguins jazz quartet from noonish on. You will be able to purchase the “Sweet Berkshire” dessert cookbook and be set with gifts for upcoming occasions if you win some really cool auction items (ranging from rounds of golf at Wyantenuck and Cranwell to Catamount Aerial Adventure Park admission tickets and gift certificates to Salon 7 and Frankie’s Ristorante among dozens of others). You will also be able to purchase a Mother’s Day card acknowledging your donation to Berkshire Baby Box in honor of a special mom.
“It’s my passion,” said Bodinger of the work she is doing. Berkshire Baby Box received the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network’s 2017 Excellence Award in the Small Nonprofit Category; in addition, Bodinger was named one of Berkshire Magazine’s “Berkshire 25 – Most Dedicated, Most Creative, Most Influential” in 2017. “My goal and expectation are that “Sweet Berkshire” will become an anticipated annual tradition, with opportunities to recognize people who are part of the fabric of Berkshire County,” said Bodinger. The event will take place at the Country Club of Pittsfield, located at 639 South St. For more information about the event, including a complete list of auction items or to inquire about receiving a BBB, visit www.berkshirebabybox.org.